So ends 2013, just like that! What a year! We have continued to grow and do so much here at The Mind Reels, and we’re hoping for an even bigger year next year! So I decided to throw together a list of the movies I most enjoyed this year, the ones that got to me, the ones that made me love movies, and the ones that made me think. Are they the best films of the year? That’s not up to me. I just know that for me each of these movies was a fantastic cinematic experience, and that’s why I go to the movies…
Here they are, the 13 theatrical experiences that made my year.
5-25-77 (Patrick Read Johnson) – As soon as I heard about this movie, I wanted to see it. This film sounded like a film that was specifically tailored to me. A dreamer, longing to fit in and but be something more, and the biggest cinematic event on the horizon. You can read my original review here, and I cannot wait to see this film again. This on going back through all the titles below, was my singular most favorite experience in the theater this year. Amazing!!
The film is still making the festival rounds, and if you are lucky enough to be able to attend a screening, do it, and where your love for movies, sci-fi and geekdom proudly, because this is your movie. You will recognize parts of yourself, and your friends up there on the screen, and it resonates so beautifully with who I am.
I cannot wait to have a chance to see it again. I’m at the point I think where I’m going to beg Patrick for a copy to watch repeatedly ad infinitum (OH PLEASE, Patrick, PLEASE!!!).
Check out my original review here.
The Hunt (Thomas Vinterberg) – This one I got to see while I covered the Bermuda International Film Festival, which meant I got to go home, and see movies… perfect. This is one of the films that made me think, made me feel. It’s not always the easiest watch as Mads Mikkelsen’s character of Lucas has his life ripped apart by a small town because of the accusations of a little girl (Annika Wedderkopp).
Watching how everyone turns on him, making his life a complete ruin, is infuriating and frustrating. Everyone just automatically believes the little girl, talking about things she’s seen and done.
The performances are powerful, and without fault. It’s a strong film that showcases Mikkelsen’s incredible talent, and watching his character change and transform with everything he goes through is believable and heartfelt.
A fantastic watch!
Read my original review here.
The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug (Peter Jackson) – I love Middle Earth, I can lose myself along the winding roads, among the Misty Mountains, spends days in the Shire, and I have walked into Mordor.
The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit trilogy is a stronger film than it’s predeccesor (though I like it as well), the pacing and action move along and we find ourselves meeting the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues his career as an unlikely burglar.
Gorgeous sets, costumes, locations and actors against a musical score by Howard Shore, makes for another strong entry in the stories of Middle Earth. But then, sadly, it all wraps up next year with the final film.
Still, for me, there is nothing cooler than watching Ian McKellen as Gandalf stride across the big screen.
I think it’s almost time to go back and watch them all again. Check out my original review here.
Iron Man 3 (Shane Black) – I’ve loved the Marvel Movies, since the first Iron Man, I can take or leave almost all of them before that. Now that they’ve created this massive, cross-film world, it’s always fun to go back and visit.
And when I heard that Shane Black was writing and directing this installment of the Iron Man franchise, having loved his and Robert Downey Jr.’s work so much in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I was practically giddy with excitement.
This time around Tony Stark (Downey) takes on the mysterious Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) as Alrdich Killian (Guy Pearce) works on the Extremis Project.
Picking up shortly after where The Avengers left off, it finds Tony in a tough place emotionally, and through the film he works through it, as all heroes do, while taking on the villains. This time around Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets to save the hero and of course, with Shane Black’s dialogue and direction there are some awesome moments.
I can’t wait for the next Marvel installment that excites me this much!
A fun, quirky film with an epic cast, a number of whom Sue and I are fortunate enough to have interviewed and call friends, the film chronicles the ups and downs of relationships after a child has come into the picture.
Amanda Brugel practically steals the film, and Kate Hewlett and Mary Kronhert’s relationship is a gorgeous thing to watch.
Funny, sexy, and with Lalonde’s usual ear for fun dialogue, I felt this one far outstrips his previous film, which I adored, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard.
It’s still making the rounds out there, and if you can find one to watch, please do! Check out my look at it here.
Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting to see what the talented Lalonde comes up with next…
The Network follows the development of the first media group to grow and blossom in Afghanistan. It’s amazing to watch how these young people come together, not for glory, not for money, or media fame. They come to work there to make their country a better place, to help it through its growing pains.
They created news programmes, television shows, educational programmes…
By turns hopeful and heartbreaking Orner has made a fantastic doc that looks at Afghanistan in a way few of us have seen it, watching from the outside, and it opens one’s eyes about what is actually going on there, and the people who are trying to make their world a better place.
A gorgeous film.
Check out my original review here, and see it if you can.
Alphee of the Stars (Hugo Latulippe) – The Hot Docs film festival here in Toronto always has a number of gems that resonate with me, but of all of them that I saw this year, and I got to see a bunch, Alphee of the Stars touched me the most.
Little 5 year-old Alphee suffers from a rare genetic disease known as Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, and her family, after the local schools recommend a program for intellectually challenged children, pick up and move.
For 2 years, they leave behind Quebec and live in Switzerland, embracing a slower pace set by the needs of their daughter. A gorgeous film filled with hope and love, chronicling the growth of this wonderful little girl, as well as the family around her.
Perhaps we could all take a cue from her, instead of constantly rushing about, we should learn to slow it down a little, enjoy all of the moments that life has to share, and be with the ones who are most important to us.
You can check out my original piece here.
Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro) – Giant monsters fighting giant robots directed by one of my most favorite directors, what’s not to like? And seeing it in 3D on the IMAX screen, does it get any better??
del Toro’s film is a big love letter to his own childhood, and rekindled a lot of my own as well. The invasion of Earth is underway, but it didn’t come from the stars, it came from a rift deep in the ocean, through which giant monsters emerge.
To combat them, giant machines are built, for two pilots, and then the mayhem begins.
With a fantastic cast including favorites Idris Elba and Ron Pearlman this film taps into the sheer joy of movies. This is a popcorn movie in the best way, giant-sized entertainment, with great sequences, fun moments, and fantastic visual effects.
I walked out of this one pumped and ready to watch it again! I’d expected to like it, I didn’t realize I was going to love it.
Check out my original take on it here.
Based on a four volume, non-fiction work about a supposed possession at a remote monastery, the film explores the concepts of love, faith, and the way the old world and the new world clash in the modern world.
The two leads, Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan shared the best actress prize at Cannes, and the film also nabbed best screenplay at the same festival.
It’s starkly and beautifully shot, and the subject matter is harrowing and heartbreaking, as these two women, who grew up together, who loved one another, find themselves on opposite sides of a religious divide, and the consequences that befall them both.
Clocking in at just short of 3 hours, this one wraps you up, and captivates you, a fantastic cinematic achievement.
See my original look at it here.
Europa Report (Sebastian Cordero) – This one I think is my favorite film from this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival Spotlight series. It had the most realistic portrayal of space travel since 2001, and had a story of fear and discovery on the most likely place to have life in our solar system, currently, Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
Filmed through a series of mounted cameras on suits and on the ship itself, it is a found-footage film, but it raises itself beyond that into actual pure science fiction as humanity gets out there, explores, facing and challenging the unknown to learn and become.
I love films like this, and it was so easy for me to buy into the reality of it on the big screen, now that it’s available on Netflix, I am totally watching this one again very soon.
I love when movies approach the thought of space exploration and contact in a realistic and believable way, it just fans the flames within me that wants to see us out there, exploring, becoming more than what we are now, changing those we meet, as they change us.
Contact. The idea is mind-blowing…
My original review is here.
The Conspiracy (Christopher MacBride) – Starring Aaron Poole (who along with Laura de Carteret and Christopher Macbride recorded a fantastic chat with Sue and I, which was then mysteriously lost…) this film taps into a level of paranoia I haven’t felt since The X-Files.
Two documentary filmmakers get caught up in an international conspiracy. When the subject of their documentary, a conspiracy buff (Alan C. Petersen) disappears, Aaron (Poole) and Jim (James Gilbert) find themselves getting drawn into a web of intrigue as connections between historical events and a group called the Tarsus Club begin to arise.
Unsure of what to believe the two are followed by black SUVs, menaced, and informed… until an opportunity presents itself to infiltrate one of the Tarsus Club’s gatherings.
And there things get even more sinister.
A well crafted paranoid thriller that poses as a documentary and successfully blurs the lines between fact and fiction, and makes you wonder how close to the mark some of the film actually is…
My original look at it can be found here.
World’s End (Edgar Wright) – The final installment of the Cornetto Trilogy mixes genres as well as the previous installments, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. This time it’s comedy and sci-fi as a group of friends attempt to complete a pub crawl that they didn’t finish in their youth.
Simon Pegg plays Gary King, who thinks his life has done nothing but go down hill since his days in high school, and is attempting the pub crawl, The Golden Mile, as a last shot at reclaiming his former glory. He wrangles in his former friends, all of whom have grown apart, including Nick Frost and Martin Freeman, and make a run at, discovering at the same time, that the location of their pub crawl has in fact been taken over by alien robots.
The dialogue is hilarious, there are actually some poignant moments as well as a kick-ass soundtrack.
While this entry marks the end of the Cornetto Trilogy, I sincerely hope that Wright, Pegg and Frost continue making films together. They are an unbeatable trio, and so much fun to watch what they come up.
My original review is here.
And finally there was the theatrical screening of The Day of The Doctor (Nick Hurran). While this is technically a television show, it screened for 3 days in theaters to coincide with the show’s 50th anniversary, in an amazing 3D presentation, and came it at No.2 at the box office for that week. Not bad at all.
Featuring the story of a previously unknown Doctor (John Hurt), the return of 10 (David Tennant) and Billie Piper, the 50th Anniversary with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and Clara (Jenna Coleman) at his side, is probably one of the strongest Doctor Who stories to have come along in a while (no matter how much I love the show, even I can admit some of the stories of late haven’t been all they could be).
But for the 50th, they pulled out all the stops, and seeing it with an audience that geeked out and cheered, clapped and teared up at all the same moments I did. THAT is an amazing experience.
My original review is here.
What were your favorite cinematic moments of 2013 and what are you most looking forward to movie-wise for 2014?
Sue and I had to go the old-school route for our podcast interview this week. But we were very lucky that Amanda Brugel found time to sit down and chat with us. Amanda is one of the loveliest people that Sue and I have ever had the pleasure to meet, she takes you in with her smile and her voice, and right away you feel like you’re talking to a dear friend.
Pull up a seat and a drink and join Sue, myself, and our op Bonnie as we find ourselves Chatting with Amanda Brugel.
SPOILERS MAY ENSUE
It’s no secret that Sue and I adore Katie, she’s a wonderfully talented actress, gifted, funny, and just so darned likable. If you missed her over on the Smithee.TV site, have a look at her here as she talks about her work on The Master, Sex After Kids, working with her mom Gail Harvey on Long Story Short, and life in general.
Chatting with Paul Amos, star of Sex After Kids and for playing Vex on Lost Girl, is always a delight, and this is the second time he’s joined us. I hope we’re establishing a regular visiting pattern…
In a destitute looking corner of Toronto (though it’s actually only about two blocks from my own apartment) a battered grey factory building stands defiant, imposing itself against the chilling winter wind. Inside it, however, a fantastic world is springing to life. A world that was first imagined by Craig Goodwill in his imaginative and charming short, Patch Town. Now, the delightful genre-defying short is making the transition to feature film.
The highly acclaimed short, internationally recognized by the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes, follows the journey of Jon (Rob Ramsay), an abandoned child, who leaves his factory work in an oppressive state and eluding the nefarious Yuri (Julian Richings) the evil Child-Catcher, to find the mother (Lisa Ray in the short, and Zoie Palmer in the feature film) who abandoned him.
Sue and I are welcomed to the set by the unit publicist, Juli Strader, who leads us through the chilly complex on a whirlwind tour of some of the brilliant sets, including some familiar looking places including jail sets from Norman Jewison’s The Hurricane and the classic Canadian series Street Legal. There are also some familiar faces behind the scenes that we know are hard at work, our friend Jeremy Doiron, who we worked with on the forthcoming Dead Before Dawn 3D, we get a few moments to chat with him before he has to rush off again. Though not in the building, we also know that our good friend, the writer and director of Sex After Kids, Jeremy Lalonde is serving as the film’s editor.
We bump into the film’s producers David Sparkes, a gregarious and chatty bloke with a fun sense of humor and an easy laugh, who welcomes us joyfully to the set.
We slip through a door, finding ourselves in Yuri’s State-like neo-gothic lair, a set filled with stuffed predators and scavengers like owls, foxes, antlers, cages, a rather creepy looking tea set, giant steamer trunks, and just off-center in the room, a 1950s looking medical device, perhaps an iron lung?
Craig Goodwill sits in the center seat of video village reviewing a shot, while the set buzzes with activity around him. Today, they are working on the climax of the film, and despite the pressures of keeping things on schedule, Craig keeps the set light and fun, it’s efficient but filled with lots of laughter.
Yuri, played with villainous aplomb by Julian Richings, struts the set is a long-tailed dark tuxedo, a wide-brimmed hat, and decidedly out of character, Julian has a wide smile on his face, easily dispelling the creepy image he so easily fosters in things like the television series Supernatural and the wonderful little horror film, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh. He wanders about, at ease, as the camera is repositioned for a series of close-ups on the folks he’s sharing the set with.
In the room’s center, surrounded by a sea of red, stands Rob Ramsay, Suresh John and Lost Girl’s Zoie Palmer are surrounded by a couple of workers, including Alan C. Peterson, who I recognize from Stargate: Atlantis, and Sue reminds me that he was also in the goofy Niagara Falls romp, Gravy Train (his eyes lit up delightedly when we mention that in our introductions, as we chat briefly about Niagara Falls, and the fun he had on the set). There are also a slew of Santas (Santi?) but don’t ask… wait for the film.
Zoie’s big, expressive eyes fill the screen in front of Craig as she’s untied by Suresh’s character Sly. Coats and blankets are offered to the cast, especially Zoie, clothed in a sleek red dress that offers nothing against the chill of the building.
Using this moment in the hurry up and wait game that is the staple of life on the set, Juli introduces us to Craig who welcomes us to the set, encourages us to look around, have fun, and enjoy the day.
Sue and I grab a couple of crew seats in video village behind Craig, David and Matti Huhta, the script supervisor. The crew, cycle quickly through the dialogue, and the close-ups of each of the cast members, working at a lightning pace, but never moving on until Craig is happy.
Craig steps away, as the camera shifts position and set-ups, to grab a doughnut, but instead returns with an apple, munching on it as he chats with Guy Godfree his cinematographer, and Julian about what he wants in the next shot.
They reset for another shot, Zoie is in the middle-ground of the frame, tied to a chair, while Julian stands in the foreground, exuding a creeping evil as he looks off-camera, right towards Sue and I. It wasn’t off-putting at all…
Again, the takes come fast and furious.
Craig decides they need some reaction shots of the Santas, and as the camera slides over bearded faces, Suresh mugs each time the camera hits him, causing laughter in video village. He’s one of those actors who can crack anyone up, and then can switch it off and be completely professional at the drop of a hat, while the rest of us are still chuckling. His line, delivered countless times that day so far, remains fresh and funny each time he says it. He’s got a great comedic knack.
Craft services come around with some aromatic grilled sandwiches, and while some of the cast and crew munch, Rob comes over to say hi to us, he chats with us, and comes across as a gregarious, friendly guy who loves what he’s doing. We chat briefly about the short’s transition to feature, before he’s required to step back into character.
David tells us about Craig’s pitch to him, the success of the original short, and some of the changes both he and Craig felt were needed to adapt it to a feature-length film. His stories are fun and engaging, laced with lots of laughs. He is rightly proud of the international success the short garnered, and is eager to see that he feature is deserving of the same recognition.
Matt Middleton, the film’s production designer also makes time to come over to chat to us, as we talk about the set we’re standing in, and the creepy animals mounted about the room. With a laugh he tells us about the amazing journey the film has taken, from the backyard discussion of it at a barbecue, to designs and sketches, to the short, to the canvas of a feature. Everyone who is involved with the project exerts not only affection for it, but an immense measure of pride; this is the little short that could.
As video village shifts to stay out of the frame, and eye-lines of the actors, Julian, who is being tended to by hair and make-up, comes over to say hello to us as well. After a round of handshakes, we tell him how much we loved his work on Supernatural and Rosalind Leigh, he’s gracious with his time, and we talk briefly about his work on the film. Much like the short, there are hints of a musical, and he confirms that this time around some of his lines are sung, we laugh and joke, and it’s so much fun to get a look at the man behind the actor.
Zoie keeps to herself, focusing her attention on the task before her, as she, like the rest of the actors around her, brings her game in each and every take, whether they are on camera or not. It has to be emotionally trying, as she’s pleading for the life of her child, played by Kayla Di Venere, who is placed in the iron lung, strapped down by Yuri and his henchmen, Kenny(Ken Hall), in each and every take.
Sue and I, with Juli’s guidance wander off set to tour the rest of the sprawling building, which has been featured in tons of Canadian series, including the always popular Murdoch Mysteries, there’s a factory set and bar set created for Patch Town, dank prison cells, a deserted district attorney’s office, almost any location, or set that you could want to find or create could be discovered in this building, it’s brilliant!
It’s things like that which just re-establish my love for the things that go on behind the camera, how things are designed, how space is used, how things are created, and the sheer creative of those involved in bringing these projects to life.
Not wanting to impose on the shoot, we return to the set, as they change set-ups, and get ready to bid our farewell to the imaginative world of Patch Town, Rob, Suresh, and Craig join Sue and I for pictures, a round of handshakes and thanks are given on both sides.
After seeing the short, and being afforded this brief glance into the feature-length version seen over by so many people who are pouring their love and skill into it, I cannot wait to see the finished product.
Watch out for this one, I think you may be delightfully surprised!
Sue and I are happy to welcome back our dear friend Mary Krohnert, talking about her film An Amish Murder, Sex After Kids, The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, her theater workshop, art therapy, general geekiness, and who she would play in the Avengers and Les Miserables.
She’s such a wonderful woman and actor, have a look… We really need to get her on Haven or Lost Girl!
I loved The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, both Sue and I have made no secret of our love for that film. We both ranked it as one of our favorite films of 2011, but my friend Jeremy LaLonde, with his latest creation, Sex After Kids, has made a film that is leaps and bounds ahead of his previous outing.
He has expanded the canvas of his creative world on screen, Paul Shepherd was shot as a faux documentary, in effect, making the camera one of the characters by it’s presence, Sex After Kids is just pure film and storytelling. In my mind, I drew this comparison, TUWOPS is 35mm, Sex After Kids pushes the curtains to the edge of the theatre and sweeps out to full 70mm. Awesome-Sauce!
Without going into too much detail, this film comes down to being one of the most perfectly crafted romantic-comedy-dramas I have ever seen, it’s easily in my top 5 relationship movies ever! The cast is amazing, and is a who’s who of brilliance, Kate Hewlett, Paul Amos, Mary Krohnert, Gordon Pinsent, Amanda Brugel, Ennis Esmer, Zoie Palmer, Kris Holden-Ried, Shannon Beckner, Jay Brazeau, Katie Boland, Peter Keleghan, Mimi Kuzyk, David Tompa and Kristin Booth.
There’s not an off-note, a missed opportunity, or bad performance, while admittedly most of the characters are quirky, they always seemed to be grounded in the reality created by the film. The writing, as we’ve come to expect from Jeremy is top-notch, it’s tightly edited, and completely engrossing and entertaining. Only two weeks into 2013, and I think I may have already found my favorite film of the year.
I’m not going to give any plot points, or storylines away, I want the viewers – watch for it at Film Festivals first! – to have the same wonderful experience without spoilers. At it’s heart the film follows a number of couples, all played by some of the most engaging and wonderful performers, a high standard Jeremy established behind the camera as well, with his fantastic crew.
Like the title says, the film explores relationships after kids have been added to the mix, it deals with themes of what defines a family, fidelity, single parents, and empty nests. At its heart Jeremy has written a love letter to parents everywhere.
Funded by his very succesful Indiegogo campaign, and he thanks all of his contributors in the credits, Jeremy and company, including producer Jennifer Liao who has a surprise cameo to watch out for, have put a beautifully shot film on the big screen. Making use of the Red Epic camera, the high-definition image showed that not only can Jeremy write a script but in conjunction with co-cinematographers Ann Tipper and Zach Melnick he can capture some truly lovely images.
The Cast and Crew screening held at The Royal Cinema in Toronto erupted in cheers and applause at the film’s end, after laughing, and clapping their way in enjoyment through the cinematic landscape. Most of the cast were in attendance for the the Q&A session with Jeremy after the film’s end, before we all had to clear out, and meet up for the After Screening party.
Cast and crew intermingled with contributors and fans, chatting, laughing, swapping stories and making for a fantastic end to the evening.
Sex After Kids will have its international premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, but watch the festival circuit, because if it gets to your area, this one is a must!
So where are all the new podcasts from your favorite film-loving duo? Well, in case you missed it, Sue and I are over on Smithee.TV – in a brand new studio!! We’ve got new guests, and returning guests, and lots to come! So if you enjoyed listening to us chat with those people you love, you should see us in action.
Join Sue and I for lots and lots of laughs, stories and fun.
Here’s a breakdown of our episodes so far, to whet your appetite…
Episode 1 – Anna & Seth. That’s right my friends, we got another chance to talk with the lovely and endearing Anna Silk, star of the hit series Lost Girl, and her equally fantastic husband Seth Cooperman. We chat briefly about the upcoming launch of Lost Girl Season 3, Seth’s awesome project he has in development (I’ll let him tell you about it), cats, travel, and whether or not Anna has days where she just wants to wear sweats…
Episode 2 – Chloe & Kiowa. Taped the same day as our chat with Anna and Seth, we were then joined in the studio by the stars of Lesser Blessed, which was showing at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Chloe Rose is one of the stars of Degrassi, and Kiowa Gordon shot to fame as Embry in the Twilight film series. In our chat we talk about Lesser Blessed, their respective careers, video games, and passing on tweets to Taylor Lautner.
Episode 3 – Katie Boland. It’s no secret that both Sue and I adore Katie, she’s a genuinely wonderful and talented person and we’re lucky to know her. We chat about her work in The Master, working with her mother Gail Harvey on the upcoming web-series Long Story Short, and of course the upcoming film from Jeremy LaLonde – Sex After Kids. And let’s be honest any chance to sit down and talk with Katie, we’ll take it.
Episode 4 – Jeremy LaLonde. Ahh Jeremy. If he hadn’t said yes to being our first interview, would Sue and I be where we are today? Hmmm. Much like Katie any chance to sit and talk with Jeremy we’ll take. We talk about Sex After Kids, Paul Shepard, his cast, his writing, things that scare us. I will admit, I was not at my best in this episode, so please forgive me
Episode 5 - Rodrigo Gudino of Rue Morgue. This was a great chat. Rodrigo joins Sue and I to talk about founding his magazine Rue Morgue, film festivals, spooky movies, Vanessa Redgrave and his creepy and beautiful film, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
Episode 6 – Pornstar Unplugged. Obviously lots of adult content in this one. Sue and I hurt from laughing and smiling so much after this one. We are joined in the studio by the adorable Supinder Wraich, from the brilliant web-series Guidestones, to talk about her new web-series Pornstar. She was joined by her co-star and filmmaker Sam Coyle, who is equally funny and engaging. The two of them are brilliant together, and you can tell that the four of us were truly having a good time. So as long as you aren’t much of a prude, check this one out!